published Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Georgia’s status quo budget

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a budget last week that gives a bit more money to the state’s schools and that will allow some reform of the state’s often creaky criminal justice system, but not before using his line-item veto to strike a few pet projects promoted by legislators eager enhance their standing with voters. The vetoes won’t sit well with sponsors of those bills, but they do allow the governor to honor his pledge to eliminate what he thinks is wasteful or inefficient spending.

The $19.3 billion budget for fiscal 2013 is about 4.5 percent higher than the 2012 budget, reflecting improving state and national economies. The increase, though, is modest. The state actually will spend about $39.5 billion in 2013. The additional $20-billion comes from the federal government. Even so, the new budget is more notable for what it does not do than for what it does.

Most of the state budget goes to education and health-care programs. Residents, though, will be hard- pressed to notice any difference in either. Most of the increases go to cover rising enrollment in schools and in health programs. There’s little left over for anything else. There is nothing in the budget, for example, for cost-of-living raises for Georgia’s teachers and employees.

The 2013 budget does provide money for economic development, for expenses related to changes in the way cars are taxed in the state and for drug and mental health courts. On the whole, though, the new budget does nothing more than uphold the status quo.

Georgians deserve better. They would be better served if legislators would address the comprehensive tax reform the state needs if it is to move forward. So far, they’ve shown no inclination to do so.

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